Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.8

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Cabo Verde has nominated Morna, musical practice of Cabo Verde (No. 01469) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Morna, musical practice of Cabo Verde is a traditional Cape Verdean musical and choreographic practice with instrumental accompaniment that incorporates voice, music, poetry, and dance. Morna can be either sung or played only with instruments, mainly chordophones, including the guitar, violin, ten-string guitar, replaced with a cavaquinho in the twentieth century, and the ukulele. Several other instruments have now been introduced – such as the piano, percussion and bass – but the guitar remains the preferred instrument. The lyric poetry can be improvised, with topics including love, departure, separation, reunion, longing, the ocean and the motherland. While in the past the lyrics were also composed in Portuguese, nowadays it is mainly composed in Cape Verdean Creole. Bearers and practitioners of the element include instrument players, singers, poets, and composers, who perform, disseminate and transmit the practice to the younger generations. Currently, some bearers are also opening teaching centres, and as a genre Morna is also practised by formal groups. Morna is a fundamental aspect of Cape Verdean social and cultural life, as it is performed at key life events, such as weddings, christenings, and family reunions. Transmission has been carried out by the community, through workshops, radio programmes, performances, festivals, and the musical contest entitled ‘Todo Mundo Canta’, which takes place on every island.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Morna is a social and cultural marker of the Cabo Verde archipelago, manifesting the identity of its inhabitants, whose historical memory is connected with colonialism and lack of freedom. The element is the result of cultural developments achieved through ethnic and social processes, which occurred in this geographical area, and reflects the creative potential of its practitioners.

R.2:   The inscription of Morna would raise awareness about the importance of Cape Verdean culture, especially Cape Verdean Creole, increasing the self-esteem and pride of the population of the islands around their different cultural expressions. Community cohesion would also be reinforced, leading to the development of new forms of collaboration between groups, individuals, researchers and public and private institutions. The inscription would also create new opportunities for the exchange of knowledge between generations and between bearers from different regions of the archipelago and immigrant communities. Furthermore, it would demonstrate the cultural diversity of the music and culture of the Atlantic sea.

R.3:   Efforts by the communities and the State Party to safeguard the element have increased over the years. The proposed safeguarding measures are coherent and feasible, highlighting the position and role of Morna practitioners and their close ties with local governments and non-governmental organizations. They include continual documentation and inventorying and the creation of an organizational platform and network for theoretical and practical activities significant for the transmission of the element.

R.4:   The nomination process began in 2017 and was carried out with the active participation of the bearers of the element, musicians and other members of the community concerned. The practitioners had been informed of the principles of the Convention. Through a series of workshops and debates, they also discussed the situation of the element and developed the set of safeguarding measures proposed. Consent was obtained from an extremely wide range of community members and the file includes a detailed identification of the practitioners.

R.5:   The State Party initiated the National Inventory of Intangible Heritage in 2018 and Morna was registered that same year. Although the inventory, maintained by the Institute of Intangible Cultural Heritage, has not been updated yet, the established procedure for safeguarding intangible heritage will define the periodicity and modality with which the inventory will be updated.

  1. Decides to inscribe Morna, musical practice of Cabo Verde on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for its first inscription;
  3. Encourages the State Party to avoid top-down approaches in all stages of the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage by ensuring that communities are at the centre of all safeguarding efforts;
  4. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity and mode of updating of the National Inventory of Intangible Heritage of Cabo Verde, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention;
  5. Further reminds the State Party to pay specific attention to the linguistic quality of the file.